Editor’s note: As we approach the beginning of the 2014 World Barista Championship, which takes place in Rimini, Italy, June 9–12, at the SCAE’s World of Coffee event, we would like to introduce you to the National Barista Champions who all worked incredibly hard to earn a position in this preeminent coffee contest. Profiles of all 54 competitors will appear on Barista Magazine’s blog between Monday, June 2, and Monday, June 9, and can all be accessed under the category header “WBC 2014 Rimini.”
BARISTA CHAMPION OF ARGENTINA
Coach: Analía Alvarez
About you: My name is Agustina, I’m 24 years old and I’m from San Miguel, Buenos Aires. I am the principle barista at “Coffee Town” which is the first café with speciality coffee in Argentina. Coffee Town is situated inside an antique, indoor market (which was built in 1891). It’s in the heart of my adopted neighbourhood, San Telmo. I also work in “Centro de Estudios del Café”, where we teach courses in barismo and coffee cupping. When I am not working, I like to experiment with and cup new samples of coffee that arrive every day. Also, I would love to learn the art of roasting coffee. In my free time I am always in the kitchen cooking, its is an art form I really love and I feel that when my food complements with my coffee, a better experience is impossible.
How many years have you worked with coffee or in the coffee industry?
I have been working with coffee for the last year and a half.
Before coffee, did you work in a different job or industry, or what did you study in school?
Before I started working with coffee, I studied for 3 years in Licensing Systems and before that I worked for 4 years in a computer store.
How did you get started in coffee?
After abandoning my studies of Systems, I wanted to realise what it is exactly that truly satisfies me. I knew this included all things culinary, for that I decided to enroll in the 2 year course at the culinary school “Instituto de Artes Culinarias Mausi Sebess”. In the middle of my studies I realised that all that I was learning in culinary school wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to know more about Services, drinks and of couse, coffee. When I was looking for some courses, I understood that whenever I went to a great restaurant for dinner or a café to enjoy a delicious slice of cake, the coffee was always awful. The truth is that good coffee is not easy to find in Argentina, the people do not have the knowledge of what is a good cup of coffee and what is a bad cup of coffee, and also there are not so much people that take seriously the profession to be a “Barista”. Because of that, I wanted to find the tools required to define a good coffee from a bad one. After a long time, because of this, I enrolled in the cupping course, which just so happened to be in “Centro de Estudios del Café”, where I now work. It engulfed me completely and I am now traped inside the world of coffee, with no desire to escape.
What was your first amazing experience with coffee?
My first and truly amazing experience with coffee, was cupping African coffee. I remember it was a Monday and I had had an awful day at work. I arrived to the class in a very bad mood. I remember that there was a few samples of coffees waiting for me that I had never tried before. Just putting water in the ground coffee made it so that my journey with coffee was only heading in one dirction, forward. When I tasted Yigacheffe washed process (very complex with aromas of jasmine flowers, honey, lemongrass, nuts, and flavors of intense red fruits such as blackberries and rasberries), that was when I knew there was no going back and that I would dedicate myself to learning all that I could about this wonderful world of coffee.
Who has been your greatest influence in coffee? Why?
Analia Alvarez, for being my mentor and teaching me all about the process of coffee and for always pushing me to learn and be the best that I could be.
Jose Vales, for being the first person to see all the potential bubbling inside me, giving me a job and the space to learn, grow, experiment and fall in love with coffee.
What would you like to see change about the coffee industry/community?
The only thing I would say that I would like to change is the coffee culture in my country, Argentina. That the people know that it is important to drink and appreciate quality in all stages of the coffee process. The plantation, the roasting, the barista, and the final product in their cup. I also would like to see a constant progress in the coffee industry, with those involved always striving to achieve new goals.
Name a barista you admire, and why:
I definitely admire Pete Licata, World Barista Champion 2013, for his consistent work in the industry, for winning and sticking to his goals, for being humble and for always helping in such a selfless manner.
Do you have a favorite customer? If so, tell us about him or her.
I have a lot of favorite customers, and a lot of which have passed on to be great friends. For example, Lexi and Adam, my Australian friends who live with me now. Damián with his little son, Simon. Ricardo “Pichin” Carreras, who helped me with the opening in the morning. Fede, Rodri, Anna, Matthew, Hugo, and the people of San Telmo Market. We are united in our love for the coffee that I not only make for them but put passion into.
Besides your own cafe, what cafe do you think everyone should visit?
If you are in Buenos Aires, you should visit: Ninina Bakery—great sándwiches, delicious pastry, organic coffee, an amazing experience. Café Lattente—in the heart of Palermo neighborhood, Colombian coffee with “Arepas”. If you are in US, you should visit Blue Bottle or Everyman, and if you are in Australia definitely Proud Mary and Seven Seeds.
Which coffee producing country you would like to visit, and why?
I would love to visit Panama to go to the plantations where they produce one of my favorite coffees, Gesha. Also Ethopia, specific the region Yirgacheffe, to see in practice there methods for producing coffee, and all the old and wild coffee trees that they have.
What are your interests outside of coffee?
All things culinary. Things with flavor, with which I can experiment, play and create new things. Also I like to study and taste the wines from my country.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I see myself traveling to all the countries that produce coffee, getting to know them on a personal level and making contacts with the producers of all the wonderful coffee that have had a great influence on my life. And If i have the possibility, I see myself in 5 years working in my own coffee shop.
Is there anyone you would like to thank or who helped you prepare for the WBC?
Yes! First, Hannah (The Great!) coffee partner, barista also, and a really good friend, thanks for be there everyday, everytime, always giving me a hand. Jose Vales, roaster and owner of Coffee Town. Analia Alvarez, director of “Centro de Estudios del Café”. “The Coffee Town Team (Viviana, Hannah (The Great!), Fernando, Marina, Maxi, Maria Jose). My family for supporting me and my dreams, even if it means that I am far away. Lexi, Adam and Alice, my friends from Melbourne, Australia, for their positive attitudes and always supporting me. My clients and the family of the San Telmo Market for standing behind me in all my coffee endevours.